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Introduction to the Symposium: Build Back Better? Health, Disability, and the Future of Work Post-COVID

By Chloe Reichel, Marissa Mery, and Michael Ashley Stein

This week marks the two-year anniversary of World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom declaring COVID-19 a pandemic.

It is at this particular moment that we, in the United States, are beginning to see the sociological construction of the end of the pandemic: metrics measuring COVID-19 transmission have been radically revised to reshape perceptions of risk; masks are, once again, being shed en masse; and remote workers are being urged back to the office. “It’s time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people,” President Joseph Biden said during his March 1, 2022 State of the Union address.

But, despite a strong collective wish for the pandemic to be over, case counts and mortality rates reveal that the pandemic continues apace both globally and domestically.

This premature and at times exclusive push to “normalcy” in the U.S. thus has reverberating repercussions: it strips away not only necessary public health precautions, but also hard-won adaptations, such as remote work and more generous sick leave policies.

It is amid this backdrop that we are proud to present our latest digital symposium, Build Back Better? Health, Disability, and the Future of Work Post-COVID.

This symposium aims to address the critical junctures of health, disability, and work at the heart of the domestic policy response to COVID-19, including: the promotion of capital to the exclusion and detriment of individual health; the disregard for vulnerable individuals; the workplace as a locus of disease; the failure to protect and accommodate workers; the pandemic as a mass disabling event; and the potential (or incapacity) for the law to make workplaces healthier and more accessible to people with disabilities.

Over the next few weeks, we will publish contributions on these topics and more from our esteemed contributors, who bring diverse personal and professional perspectives to bear on this area of inquiry. You can browse all of the contributions here; new posts will be added regularly.

Chloe Reichel

Chloe Reichel is the Petrie-Flom Center’s Communications Manager. She serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Bill of Health blog and leads the Center's broader communications efforts.

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